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Why many stores can’t accept food stamps during the shutdown

While so far there have been no major lapses in benefits for the nearly 39 million people who depend on food stamps amid the partial government shutdown, 2,500 retailers around the country are unable to take any form of SNAP EBT payments.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    With the government shutdown now in its 27th day, many federal programs have been affected, including food stamps.

    So far, there is no major lapse in benefits used by nearly 39 million people each month. That's because of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. It found a way to pay SNAP benefits, as they are called, earlier than normal.

    February benefits, awarded through a debit-style card used at stores, are being paid out this week. Several states, including California and Florida, are warning users to be careful and make sure they manage to make the money last longer.

    For 2,500 retailers, the problem is already here. That's because those stores needed to renew a license for the Electronic Benefit Transfer, or EBT debit card program, and they failed to meet a deadline before the shutdown. Those renewals, required every five years, are on hold.

    Sarah Jackson is an employee at one store in Northern Arkansas.

  • Sarah Jackson:

    We have been completely unable to take any form of SNAP EBT payments. Grocery stores need a license to process EBT payments, and ours expired and was unable to be renewed on schedule because of the government shutdown.

    Because of an argument about a wall, I have to look people in the eyes every day and tell them they can't pay for their food, for their children's food.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Sarah Jackson in Arkansas.

    We reached out to the U.S. Department of Agriculture for a response. A spokesperson wrote back — quote — "Over 99 percent of SNAP retailers are able to accept benefits as usual. There is a small percentage of stores that failed to complete a required reauthorization process that was due on December 21. These stores can take steps to update their status once funding is restored" — end quote.

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